Statewide tornado drills on TV, radio Friday, April 12

June 2017, just two years ago, saw the largest tornado outbreak in Northeast Wisconsin history. Ten tornadoes touched down in Brown, Green Lake, Outagamie, Shawano and Winnebago counties on June 14.

On Friday, April 12, TV and radio stations across the state will help you prepare for the next one.

A decision was made to postpone Thursday's planned drill by one day because of the threat of severe winter weather on Thursday.

At 1 p.m. on April 12, the National Weather Service will issue a mock tornado watch.

Forty-five minutes later, the test will be upgraded to a tornado warning. At that time (1:45 p.m.) the Emergency Alert System (EAS) audio tone and message will be activated on participating TV and radio stations statewide, and alerts will also come through NOAA weather radios.

There will also be a statewide test in the evening. A mock tornado warning will be issued at 6:45 p.m. so families can practice their emergency plans at home.

  • A tornado watch means a tornado is possible; remain alert and be prepared to move to a safe zone

  • A tornado warning means a tornado has been spotted or indicated on radar; go immediately to a safe zone

Because ACTUAL warning codes are being sent, TV and radio messages may not reflect that this is a test, and it may seem as if the watches and warnings are real!

Most counties will sound their outdoor sirens.

The Wireless Emergency Alert system won't be activated, but you may receive NWS alerts and text messages through your smartphone apps which pass along NWS and EAS warnings.

Schools, businesses and families are encouraged to use this statewide drill to practice their emergency plan and test their weather radios.

This simultaneous, statewide drill is part of Tornado and Severe Weather Awareness Week in Wisconsin and a partnership among the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, Wisconsin Emergency Management, ReadyWisconsin, and National Weather Service.

Because there is a real chance of severe weather in Wisconsin on Thursday, April 11 -- after the snowstorm passes, thunderstorms are expected -- the tornado drills are being postponed by a day.

In the past couple of years Wisconsin has seen about 18 tornadoes, none rated above an F1. But in 2014, when 22 tornadoes struck the state, 18 of those were in the month of June. And in 2013, there were 16 tornadoes, with six of them striking in a single night, causing millions of dollars in damage in Outagamie and Waupaca counties.

Before a storm

  • Develop a plan for you and your family for home, work, school and outdoors. Know the safest shelter areas in multiple locations.
  • Have frequent drills.
  • Keep a disaster supply kit in your home including water, food that won’t spoil and needs no heat to serve, first-aid kit, NOAA weather radio (also known as an emergency weather radio), a flashlight and special items for children, pets and elderly family members.
  • Be sure your weather radio is working properly. Spring is a great time to install fresh batteries.

During a tornado watch or warning
  • In a home or building, avoid windows. Move to a basement, and get under a sturdy table or the stairs. If a basement is not available, move to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor and cover yourself with towels, blankets or pillows. If possible, get under a sturdy table, desk or counter. Put as many walls as possible between you and the storm. Wearing a bike helmet will help protect your head.
  • If outdoors, seek shelter in a sturdy building. If you cannot get to shelter, stay in your vehicle with the seat belt on and place your head below the windows. Do not seek shelter under an overpass.
  • Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes. You should leave a mobile home and go to the designated storm shelter or the lowest floor of a sturdy nearby building.
  • At school, go to the interior hall or room. Crouch low, head down, and protect the back of your head with your arms. Stay away from windows and large open rooms like gyms and auditoriums.